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NLP & The Procrastination Habit (Part 2 of 2)

From our free The Pegasus NLP Newsletter

An NLP look at 'putting things off' (2)

The first part of this article on NLP & The Procrastination Habitlooked at how we procrastinate and how it affects us. Now it's time to take action on procrastinating. Unless you’d like to do put it off till you have more time… :-)

The two types of motivation

Fundamental to dealing with procrastination is knowing how best to motivate yourself and recognising which of the two approaches to motivation work best for you in a particular situation.

  1. Towards Motivation: This is an NLP term for Aspirational Motivation. In it we emphasise or focus more on the benefits of doing something – to the feelings/values which appeal to us in this context and which we want to ‘move towards’. We are paying attention to the pleasant feelings/values which we will experience as a result of taking action; feelings such as achievement, success, enjoyment, status, and so on. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘carrots’ approach to motivation and is often considered to be the ‘positive’ way of motivating.
  2. Away From Motivation: This is an NLP term for Risk Avoidance Motivation. In it we emphasise or focus more on the consequences of not doing something which needs doing. We are paying attention to the feelings/values we may experience if we do not take action – and which we want to ‘move away from’ This is sometimes referred to as the ‘stick’ approach to motivation and is frequently considered to be the ‘negative’ way of motivating.

Terms like positive and negatives are pretty meaningless here since whichever style works for you is going to have a positive benefit and, of course, in any situation there’ll be a little of both Towards and Away From motivation - the key is which ‘motivation direction’ works most effectively for you to get things done in a particular situation.

Motivating others

(Incidentally, these two points are very important when it comes to motivating others.  If your own motivational style is predominantly Towards, and this works excellently for you, you may be tempted to try to motivate everyone in the same way.

But such a style might be completely inappropriate when it comes to motivating somebody whose motivational style is Away From! It’s also worth remembering that motivational style can vary quite significantly from one situation to another for any individual. (We explore how to use the two styles of motivation in our in-depth NLP Core Skills course.

Use Away From motivation for procrastination

A very ‘positive’ Towards motivational approach, in which you focus on all the benefits of doing something, will rarely work in dealing with your own procrastination. You need to use a mainly Away From approach.  You need to ratchet up the discomfort – by focussing your attention on the consequences of not acting.

Six steps for dealing with Procrastination

Here’s how. Take something you like to start procrastinating on. Set aside about 15 minutes or so for the following exercise.  Make sure you won't be interrupted.  Switch off the phone, too. 

Make sure this is something you could have acted upon before now - in other words you had the resources and the time to act, but didn't! And it will help if you have a Mini Action Plan already prepared for this (see Newsletter # 3 in the Self Talk Series). 

Now go through the following steps:

  1. Take a few minutes to think about, and to feel, just how much stress putting this off has already caused you since you first realised the task needed action.  Be sure to really get into these feelings.
  2. Think about, and feel, how much stress it is currently causing you - how much time you spend thinking about it (or trying to not think about it), feeling guilty about it, being reminded about it by yourself and by others, and so on. Again, get in touch with these feelings of discomfort.
  3. Think about how much discomfort it will cause you if you continue to do nothing about it for another few weeks or even another a few months.
  4. Okay, you have had a really good experience of the uneasiness and unpleasantness involved in procrastinating on this issue, you now need to look at the benefits of taking action. You've done the ‘stick’ bit – now it’s time for a little bit of ‘carrot’. So take a few moments to really feel how good it will be once you have taken action on this and put it behind you!
  5. Now, if you have one prepared, check your Mini Action Plan for this task to remind yourself just how little time and effort this task will actually require. And compare the cost of taking action (in terms of energy, effort, etc) with the cost of not taking action…
  6. Now do it. Right now, while it is still fresh in your mind and in your emotions. Or at least begin doing it. Or plan to take action within the next day or so – and make sure you stick to this commitment.

Ways of making the 6 steps work even better

  • List everything in Steps 1 to 4 on a sheet or two of paper.  Putting things on paper makes them less easy to ignore. You can delude yourself or ignore things much more easily when they are flitting about in your mind. But seeing the facts on paper forces you to recognize the reality of what you are doing to your own peace of mind and your own vitality through procrastinating

  • Motivating yourself is an emotional rather than an intellectual exercise.  So take the time to really feel both the Towards and the Away From emotions rather than simply making lists of feelings

  • Deal with just one procrastinating issue at a time.  It’s easier to focus your attention and your motivation this way

  • Immediately you’ve done it - completed the task - make some notes on the same sheets of paper about how you feel! Keep all this paperwork for later reference. Reading through it now and then will help you remain focused on the discomfort and distress that you do cause yourself each time you procrastinate - and on the benefits of adopting a new ‘do it now’ attitude.


Click here for Part 1 of this newsletter

By Reg Connolly, Director of Training, Pegasus NLP

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